Brewer's Tale: Yeast

The production of almost all beer depends on a single celled fungus, brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Recent genetic analyses of this simple organism show that at about 80 million years ago, this yeast underwent significant genetic changes that set it apart from other yeasts. S. cerevisiae's genetic code gives it the ability to turn off its aerobic respiration pathway, i.e., to convert sugar to ethanol even when oxygen is present. Much of the work to elucidate the yeast genome was done by John Aris at University of Florida in Gainesville (Thomson, J. Michael; Gaucher, Eric A.; Burgan, Michelle F.; De Kee, Danny W.; Li, Tang; Aris, John P.; Benner, Steven A. "Resurrecting ancestral alcohol dehydrogenases from yeast," Nature Genetics (2005), 37(6): 630-635.)

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Coghlan, Andy. "The brewer's tale: How yeast acquired the talent that led to the birth of booze," New Scientist, December 23-January 5, 2007, pp. 32-33. Crerar Q1.N51